Allow me to tell you a story; a true story about my Grandad, Skulduggery Pleasant and how those two incredible entities combined to have a profound impact on my life.
Before I delve too deeply into my love of Derek Landy’s dead famous bestselling series of books, I must first fill you in on the kind, hilarious clever wizard of a man who I had the honour of calling my Grandad.
Pete Bastow was so much more than a grandfather to me he was also a wise and supportive father who was always there when I needed him and a mad best mate who taught me to find humour in every aspect of life.
I am blessed to have thousands of amazing memories of him tucked snuggly away in the treasure-trove of my mind, but out of all those reminiscences the ones that remain most vivid are the countless hours we spent reading.
I’ve always loved stories and the intoxicating joy of immersing myself within their worlds, but as much as I adore books, the act of reading has proven consistently difficult for me. As regular readers of this blog will know, I have a condition called Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy which affects all four of my limbs and means I am a fulltime wheelchair user. One of the most unfortunate side effects of my disability ensures that I am a painfully slow reader, which for someone with my voracious appetite for fiction is most uncool. So unlike most Grandads, mine didn’t stop reading to me as soon as I was out of nappies, he continued every evening and weekend until reading became one of our things, along with quoting movies, watching sitcoms and taking the Mickey out of life in general.
Now the background to this yarn has been sufficiently filled in, let me take you back to what would become a very memorable day in 2007. I was rolling past my local branch of Waterstones when I was stopped in my tracks by the display in the shop’s window, a poster that read Skulduggery Pleasant: The new novel by Derek Landy accompanied by an enticingly placed stack of hardbacks.
I know they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but come on, have you seen it? The now iconic image of the skeleton detective in his exquisitely tailored suit and fedora with a magical flame emanating from the fingers of his gloved hand, I was hooked before I’d even finish the blurb.
I took the tome back to my own partner in crime and the very next day my granddad and I ventured into the Skulduggery Pleasant universe for the first time. We loved it. This new title was laugh-out-loud funny, relentlessly fast-paced and delightfully violent with some of the best dialogue I’d come across in any work of fiction. Derek Landy’s gorgeously sharp prose not only introduced me to his quirky, crazy and truly original cast of characters, but it also made me discover YA literature as a medium which in turn inspired me to become a writer.
Over the next 7 years and 12 books (if you include two spin-offs and a World Book Day short story) Mr Pleasant, his fiery young protégé Valkyrie Cain and their badass band of associates became like old friends to us. We’d read about their latest adventures over cups of tea on lazy Saturday mornings, or with an ice-lolly on the back yard on bright summer days. We’d howl at the exploits of Scapegrace and Thrasher as my ol’ man slurped back his red wine and we’d spill biscuit crumbs between the pages, as we hurried towards the next mind-melting plot twist.
We finished book 9 Skulduggery Pleasant: The Dying of the Light in mid-2014 and as the cover slammed shut, an era ended.
I’d grown from a geeky 10-year-old with an overflowing imagination to a still geeky windswept and interesting 18-year-old with blazing creative ambitions. Just a few months later my mad wizard of a Grandfather had left this mortal coil and those memories of Skulduggery and crew became more poignant than ever.
Then came the recent release of Skulduggery Pleasant: Resurrection and the subsequent Molotov cocktail of emotions that exploded within me. In one way I was ecstatic at the prospect of re-entering the realm of magic, mayhem and mischief that had inspired me so much and in another way I was heartbroken that my Grandad, Dad and bestest mate wouldn’t be here to narrate this new edition to the series and share in its thrills and twists.
But as it reads on Resurrection’s cover, ‘You can’t keep a dead man down.’ And if magic exists which if Derek’s musings are to be believed, it most certainly does, then I’m sure my ol’ man will be reading it alongside me from behind this earthly veil.
Thanks for the memories, Derek.
Love and miss you every day, Grandad.